Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Junior Senior - Move Your Feet (2003)

*** (of four)

The "Celebrity Playlist" section of the iTunes Music Store is one dangerous place for my credit card. I never thought I'd find myself morbidly curious to learn what tracks Jay-Z pumps in the McDonald's drive thru or which Spacehog song Liv Tyler and her husband make love to most often. Instead, I'm downloading all kinds of weird shit (my favorite playlist so far: director Robert Rodriguez) via celebrities. That's how I got to know and love - in a very odd way - this British dance-pop song from Junior Senior. Which, if memory serves correctly, comes courtesy of the Celebrity Playlist of one Weird Al Yankovic.

"Move Your Feet" has dub elements of '70s funk and disco, '80s new wave and '90s electronica, and is catchy as hell despite having no verses and a seven-word chorus. The video, from Shynola, is a charming but extremely low-budget animated effort with all the quality of an 8-bit video game. If you're a fan of pixels, check out this hodgepodge of drunk squirrels, singing hotdogs, banjo-playing children, frowny-faced burning toast, dancing robots and, of course, the guys of Junior Senior themselves. It's strange, it's childish, and if it's good enough for Weird Al, it's good enough for me.

Soundgarden - Spoonman (1994)

*** (of four)

During my state-mandated government class one Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Dehart wheeled in the TV/VCR cart from the AV department and dimmed the classroom lights. I figured we were in for another kitschy 1970s "How a Bill Becomes a Law" presentation, but instead we spent the 52-minute class period watching a VHS time capsule of Dehart's appearance on a local public-access cable talk show.

On the video, the younger version of our bald teacher had long, unwieldy hair and a thick salt-and-pepper beard, and he revealed himself to be a master of spoon percussion. Mr. Dehart was a spoonman way before Chris Cornell and the boys cut this song about it. And, after turning the lights back up, he told us all the secret was to sand down the bowl end of the spoon. The duller the bottom of the spoon, the easier the process of rhythmically smacking them together. Useful info, to be sure. I never did learn how a bill becomes law.

Mr. Dehart lives on in my memory thanks to VH1 Classic's Rock Fest show, which polishes the dust off this old Soundgarden video from time to time. Director John Smithey shows the band in color-tinted photo stills, which the camera roams up and down and side to side, documentary-style.

This visual collage holds up just fine for the length of the video, but the star of the show is the Spoonman himself, a mohawked, crazy-eyed homeless man named Artis who putters around a barren loft, soloing on the spoons and apparently developing all of these still photos of Soundgarden in his darkroom, stalker-style. I have a feeling if we took a look in Mr. Dehart's darkroom, we'd see zero pictures of Soundgarden and about 300 pictures of Buffalo Springfield.

"I don't know about you, but I think alternative music could definitely use more spoon solos."